Azraq Oasis

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Al Zoubi Hotel

Flag of Jordan  ,
Friday, March 5, 2010

Getting to Azraq was another entertaining foray into the world of Jordanian public transport - further complicated by it being a Friday (the Muslim equivalent of Sunday).
Leaving Umm Qais, the van spent half an hour doing bog laps to try and find more passengers before going on to Irbid, where we had to change bus stations (another bus) to catch a service taxi to Jerash.
We stopped for a few hours in Jerash to see the Roman ruins - the best in Jordan after Petra if the ticket price is anything to go by. Most of the major public buildings have been restored thanks to French funding (guilt over displaying so many Jordanian finds in French museums?) and it must have been a very impressive city in its heyday. Built from limestone, it is a little disappointing after the marble ruins of Turkey, where intricate carvings remain 2 millenia later.
The chariot race was rather entertaining though.

It took us 2 hours of walking to the bus station (deserted) and around town, declining overpriced taxis, to discover that although the bus station closes on Fridays the buses still run from the main intersection. It took an hour to fill the bus with passengers before departing to Amman, where we had to change for a bus to Zarqa, where we had to walk 1km to the next station to catch the Azraq bus. People gave us very curious looks when we asked for directions to the Azraq bus, now I know why. So we finally arrived at 5:30pm, very surprised to have made it the whole 170km in one day. The change in scenery was dramatic - from the rolling green hills in Umm Qais, into suburbia and city, through yellow desert until finally we caught glimpses of the huge Azraq lake.

Oasis town is a bit of a misnomer, Azraq town is a 2km stretch of truck stop restaurants and shops on the highway that leads to the borders (Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia). Lining the road are hanging sheep carcasses, and the occasional live sheep tethered and miserably bleating, awaiting its fate. I won't describe the smell, the flies or the dust - which apparently gets worse in summer.
Once home to giant wetlands with numerous species of birds and even gazelles, the wetlands disappeared as pumping levels peaked - at one point it supplied a quarter of Ammans water. The conservation society now pump water back into the wetlands to try and restore some of its former splendor and attract birds back to the area. Perhaps it is working - we saw a total of 3 birds during our visit, although that might be due to a fire last October, after which they have closed most of the reserve to the public.

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